Help! We have a “Threenager”

Woah! It’s been 9 days since my last post. A lot has happened in the last week and our family has been very busy! I started a new job this week, and as a result am fairly exhausted. I forgot how tiring it is when you are learning new things every day! But it has been great. I am meeting new people and am learning so much already.

That’s not the only reason I’m exhausted.

Have you ever heard the term “threenager”? Yup, it is exactly as it sounds. A three-year-old with the attitude and sass of a teenager. We definitely have a threenager in the house. And man, is it brutal.


Lately Jade’s mood swings are completely out of control. Even the smallest things will set her off. And the tantrums are like a car crash. You can’t anticipate them, can’t avoid them, you just brace yourself and ride them out. And pray that you come out in one piece.
Earlier this week she threw a 40-minute tantrum because her dad poured her cereal. Forty minutes! Now granted, it could have been a lot shorter, but I refused to give in to her. When it comes to threenagers, you definitely need to know when to pick your battles. However, you cannot give in too easily. Giving in to their every demand, especially the crazy ridiculous ones, just rewards the undesired behavior.

My husband and I have tried every tactic in the book. We’ve tried the calm approach. Most parenting articles will tell you to get down on their level, and talk to them in a calm manner. You are supposed to explain why things are the way they are, and give them choices. We’ve tried that. And it works, sometimes.

But what do you do when the tantrum spirals so far out of control that reason just doesn’t work anymore? Believe me, you can rarely reason with a threenager. It can be so hard to remain calm.


We have also tried the “tough love” approach. I have raised my voice on more than one occasion. It has worked sometimes, and not in others. I certainly do not enjoy yelling at my child. For starters, it usually results in her saying “you’re not my best friend.” Who wants to hear that? But honestly, there have been times where a raised voice or a stern talking to were the only things that worked.

Because we were basically at our wits end, we decided to try something different this week. We have implemented a behavior chart. And it is working really well!

Here’s what it looks like:

Each time Jade exhibits good behavior, through listening and completing basic three-year-old tasks, she receives a sticker. If she acts out, throws a tantrum, or exhibits other negative behavior, she loses a sticker. (Believe me, we’ve ripped a few stickers off.) Once she receives 10 stickers and completes a row, she gets a prize. I bought several “prizes” from the dollar store: puzzles, necklaces, small toys, etc., and placed them in a basket in our pantry.

As is anything with a threenager, there are extreme highs and extreme lows involved with the behavior chart. Jade loves when she gets a sticker. And it has made even the simplest tasks (like going potty or brushing teeth) so much easier. On the flip side, she hates losing stickers. However, the thought of losing a sticker has prevented a few tantrums. I believe this exercise is starting to teach her the difference between desirable and undesirable behavior. We just need to remain consistent and constant. Threenagers need consistency.

So far she has completed one row and has gotten to get a “surprise” (her word for prize) from the magical prize bucket. She was so proud, and so were we. Here’s hoping this tactic helps us survive the next 9 months of living with a threenager! If it doesn’t work, we may literally go insane!



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